Tuesday, February 14, 2006


I seem to have failed in my attempt to be clear in my last post, so please let me clarify.

I will now try to be painfully obvious; my post was primarily a critique of the political conclusions drawn by Lakoff . I do have reservations about framing as it is described by Lakoff, and some of these reservations were addressed in my post. My primary goal, though, was to show that the Strict Father/Nurturant Parent paradigm espoused by Lakoff (and taken up by many Liberals) is no more than a litany of stereotypes and misconceptions propped up as scientific theory, resulting on more confusions and misunderstanding, not less.
For a few more examples of the issues I have with the Strict Father/Nurturant Parent paradigm, a quick search around the internet will find that it is used to claim that Conservatives are oppressors of women, incapable of rational thought, racists, want to own slaves, believe that poverty is caused by moral failure while success is a barometer of moral strength, etc. Yet the Nurturant Parent model paints Liberals as empathetic, fair, honest, open, and trustworthy. In short, the Strict/Nurturant dichotomy paints Conservatives as evil and Liberals as good – inherently.

Even the largely cursory critique I made of this in my last post shows that Lakoff’s Strict Father/Nurturant Parent model is totally inadequate; in addition to completely ignoring the depth and complexity of thought and ideology on the Right, it does the same for the Left. Even many progressives are disappointed at the errors this now-popular model seems to introduce. I hesitate to draw the comparison, but I will admit that I find the parallels between the progressive rhetoric justified by Lakoff’s model and the progressive rhetoric justified by eugenics chilling.

I believe this stereotypical framework was developed primarily because of the Liberal conceit common in some progressive circles that if everyone has all the facts, they must be a Liberal. This unbelievably egotistical idea is more common than you might think, and Lakoff’s analogy is used widely by many in this crowd to explain why people who obviously do have access to the facts dare to disagree with them.

There are some very interesting locations out there with fascinating discussions of ‘framing’ in general and especially with references to Lakoff’s particular work. I recommend this as a decent place to start, and the author has a great deal of related writing. The author of this blog (BTW, it is Chris of Mixing Memory) has criticized me for my last post. Since he seems to agree with me that Lakoff does a lousy job of explaining framing and that the Strict/Nurturant model is inadequate, I believe that he is upset because I called Lakoff ‘postmodern’; Bora at Science and Politics has voiced the same complaint.

While a consistent definition of ‘Postmodern’ is a bit hard to nail down, when speaking of philosophy I mean it as ‘the belief or position that reality is not objective, but is rather a subjective human construct, typically an outgrowth of language and social systems’. So, as the term ‘postmodern’ is generally applied in philosophy, and as I apply it, Lakoff and his Embodied Mind Theory is indeed postmodern. I do not seem to be alone in this. You are free to disagree, of course.

Lastly, I suggest that anyone interested in the numbers of scientists that are interested in Lonergan’s General Empirical Method and its use by and among scientists contact the closest Lonergan Institute or their closest Jesuit university; either will gladly introduce you to scientists willing to talk to you or direct you to academic papers and other resources.

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